What Employers Need to Know About Electronic Cigarettes August 17 2015

Electronic cigarettes sometimes referred to as “e-cigarettes” or “e-cigs”, have become quite popular within the last couple of years. These devices are attracting a lot of attention from youth who are not of age to legally purchase real cigarettes; but moreover, they have gained popularity with smokers who may be trying to quit the unhealthy habit. The questions remain – what are they and how do they affect employers?

E-cigs are cigarette shaped devices that contain a nicotine-based liquid which is vaporized and inhaled. They are used to simulate the experience of smoking tobacco. Until recently, there were very few rules or regulations surrounding the use of e-cigarettes. These relatively new devises are promoted to be much less harmful than real cigarettes and do not produce smoke. E-cigarettes produce vapor and the process of using an e-cigarette is known as “vaping” or “e-smoking”.

By now you may have heard that the Ontario government recently introduced legislation to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under 19 and make vaping indoors in public places illegal as of January 1, 2016.

There is heated debate about the use of e-cigs in public places and whether they are harmful to users and those around them. Before the passing of Bill 45 and unless expressly addressed in an internal policy, employers had little choice if employees wanted to “vape” at work.

Prior to Bill 45, the Healthy Menu Choices Act, there has only been legislation regarding the use of tobacco products. The federal Non-Smokers’ Health Act, the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, as well as all other provincial non-smoking laws regulate and restrict smoking tobacco products in public places. Under the new law, electronic cigarettes are now treated in the same way as regular cigarettes in Ontario.

Does your company have a policy about smoking at work? Does it address electronic cigarettes? If not, employers may want to revise their tobacco-free workplace policies to include e-cigarettes as a form of tobacco.